The Department of Defense released a flurry of additional photos Friday that were taken during the April 27 Air Force One Statue of Liberty photo-op, closing at least one chapter of the controversial saga.
A total of 146 photos were released of the incident, which prompted some to question the reasoning behind the White House Military Office's decision not to make the mission more broadly-known. It was that lack of a public heads-up that outraged New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who did not get advance notice of the flyover. It also startled many of the city's residents, whose memories of the September 11th attacks are still fresh in their minds nearly eight years later.
Last May, the White House reluctantly released one photo from the incident, prompting 40 organizations, including Fox News, to formally request the Department of Defense to release of the rest of the photos. Citing the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, Fox also requested records related to the decision not to notify the media or the public of the planned photo-op. The FAA told Fox in a letter that some of those documents were withheld because they are exempted from FOIA's mandatory public disclosure requirement due to the "sensitive security information" and information about the "deliberative process" they contained.
The 747's flight that April day served as both a training mission and to update the photographic files of the President's plane. The plane is known as Air Force One when the President is on it, which he was not that day.
The President was said to be "furious" over the incident and called for a review, which subsequently led to the resignation of the White House Military Office's Director Louis Caldera. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told the press, "The President instructed the staff to ensure that [this type of incident] doesn't happen again."
Normally, a training mission of this sort would not be reported high up the chain of command, but the administration implied common sense should have prevailed in such a sensitive locale.
Photo-ops of the Presidential plane over national landmarks are not an anomaly, but the internal review made clear that more clarity is needed in notification procedures.